Tag Archives: lobster

An Anniversary Dinner at L'Auberge Chez Francois

8 Apr

Last month, Rachel and I were contemplating where we should go for our anniversary dinner. We wanted to stray away from something over the top expensive, but also find somewhere that was romantic and new to us. A few weeks earlier, we received Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants issue, and there it was: L’Auberge Chez Francois.

Originally located in downtown DC and opened in 1954, L’Auberge Chez Francois relocated to Great Falls, Virginia in 1975 and the rest, well, is history. Driving to the restaurant on the windy, mansion-lined Walker Road was a bit of an adventure as you’re trying to keep your eyes on the curvy road while trying not to gawk at all the over the top real estate.

The exterior of the restaurant reminds you of a lovely French cottage, and it’s even homier once you step inside. In fact, L’Auberge Chez Francois is about as old school of a restaurant as you’ll ever find in the Washington metropolitan area. From the wood fireplaces to the wicker chairs, the atmosphere was cozy yet refined. It looks like time has stood still when surveying the interior of L’Auberge, but that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a welcome departure from what we’re used to these days with dimly lit rooms and large white plates with small servings of food.

The four-course dinner is prix-fixe, with the price depending on which entrée you order, and they range from $68 to $81. While looking over the wine list, our waiter brought over a basket of warm toasted garlic bread accompanied with a cottage cheese spread. Naturally, we finished the basket in minutes. You wouldn’t think cottage cheese would complement the bread, but it helped balance out the strong garlic flavor.

Braised Wagyu beef cheeks

Shortly after, we received our amuse bouche: leek and potato soup presented in a tea cup. Nice touch, and the soup was delicious. As for our appetizers, I immediately decided upon the braised Wagyu beef cheeks. Accompanied with wild mushrooms, vegetables, and a sherry wine sauce, this dish was exceptional. Presented in a Le Creuset pot, the beef cheeks practically melted in your mouth. Considering that this was only our first course, the bar was certainly raised high after enjoying this phenomenal appetizer.

Crêpe

Rachel ultimately decided on a crêpe with chives, stuffed with a duxelle of mushrooms, tomato concassé, with a truffle sauce. While a crepe may not seem as indulgent or over-the-top as wagyu beef, it was definitely the best crepe she’s ever had. Every bite was perfect and she only wished there was more than one on the plate.

Following the appetizer course, L’Auberge Chez Francois provides their organic mesclun salad with vinaigrette. You can, however, opt for one of their special salads for an upcharge (approximately seven dollars), but we passed.  If our first course was any indication, we knew we were going to be in for a filling meal.

After the salad course, we were served a grapefruit sorbet intermezzo. I distinctly remember the sorbet having a strong, pungent flavor.

Peppered sirloin

And that brings us to our main course. Keeping with the beef theme, I opted for the peppered certified Angus Beef sirloin. Diners have their choice of having it topped with Roquefort cheese or shallots, and I went with the latter. Cooked medium rare and wonderfully tender, the steak was an incredibly generous portion. So large, in fact, that I couldn’t even finish it. That, my friends, is a rarity for someone like me.

Poached Maine lobster

For Rachel, there was no indecisiveness here. As soon as she saw the words “whole Maine lobster”, that was instantly her choice. Her dish was a poached Maine lobster, along with jumbo lump crabmeat, Sauternes butter sauce, and citrus pieces. It felt so gluttonous eating a completely declawed lobster in a rich sauce. The only small complaint would be there could have been a little less sauce so it wasn’t as heavy, or maybe she should have asked for it on the side. Nevertheless, she was in heaven.

Chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream

For dessert, I went with the chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream. Incredibly rich, this was a surefire choice, though Rachel’s dessert still managed to trump it.

Chocolate soufflé

And that brings us to the chocolate soufflé. Should you ever dine at L’Auberge Chez Francois, do yourself a favor and spring the extra $8.50 for this. Saying it is well worth it would be an understatement. In fact, you have to order it when you order your entrée because of the preparation time. You have the option of ordering the chocolate, hazelnut, raspberry, or Grand Marnier. She had to go with the classic chocolate soufflé, and it was definitely worth the upcharge. She only wishes she weren’t too full and was able to finish it all.

And on top of that, the kitchen treated us to a complimentary anniversary gift – a soft caramelized meringue with kirsch and vanilla ice cream! Very nice gesture by Chez Francois, yet we were so stuffed that we could barely finish it.

As for the service, it was impeccable. Remember, you’re dining at a high-class French establishment, and our waiter was incredibly helpful given our trademark indecisiveness. We’re so glad that we ventured out to Great Falls to experience L’Auberge Chez Francois for the very first time. While the food isn’t as adventurous as, say, the newest restaurant on 14th Street, the execution was outstanding while the romantic atmosphere made for simply a wonderful anniversary destination.

L'Auberge Chez Francois on Urbanspoon

Fiola Shines in Penn Quarter

28 Dec

A few weeks ago, I went out to dinner for a girls’ night with a bunch of my close friends in DC. We weren’t celebrating any special occasion, but it had been awhile since all of us were together and we decided to have a fun night out at Fiola, one of the newer and more acclaimed restaurants to open this year.

While I had never been to Fabio Trabocchi’s original restaurant, Maestro, I have always heard great things about his food and reputation, and I was very excited to try his new venue that has been receiving rave reviews all year. We knew this meal would put a dent in our wallets, but we were ready for a fun and memorable evening.

First things first, we had to find Fiola! A word to the wise: while the address says Pennsylvania Avenue, it actually leads you to the back of the restaurant. Turns out that you need to go around to Indiana Avenue to come across the entrance. Tricky, indeed.

Dates stuffed with fois gras wrapped in prosciutto

Once we all gathered and had some cocktails, we were seated to our table. I had heard that Jeff Faile’s cocktails weren’t to be missed, so I ordered a Milan Mule, which was his take on a Moscow Mule but was concocted with Plymouth gin, Amaro Abano, lime juice, and Blenheim ginger ale.

There were seven of us, so we split two bottles of tasty prosseco throughout the meal. The first item brought to our table was their incredible homemade rolls. These were more like buttery croissants or brioche buns as opposed to traditional rolls, and they were a great indication of what was to time. I swear I would go back to Fiola in a heartbeat just for these rolls alone.

We split two appetizers for the table and were very happy with both. First up were the Fiola meatballs, topped with a sunny side up egg and Pecorino Toscano. I’m starting to learn that everything tastes better with a runny egg on it, and these were no exception. The meatballs were wonderful and the sauce was irresistible. The bread we had wasn’t the best for dipping, but we made sure there was nothing left in the bowl.

Fiola meatballs

Next up was one of the restaurant’s daily specials. If they are offering it, do not hesitate to order the dates stuffed with fois gras wrapped in prosciutto and served with generous shavings of Parmesan and drizzled with balsamic. There were only a few dates, so we cut them up for everyone to try. It might not have been the best way to sample it as it is meant to be a singular burst of flavor, but I still savored each bite.

There were so many appealing entrees to choose from that it was hard to make a decision, especially since you can order most fresh pastas as half portions if you are torn between pasta and something else. In the end, I knew I had to get Fabio’s signature dish that was a carryover from Maestro, and that would be the lobster ravioli. It just sounded too good to pass up, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

Lobster Ravioli

The waiter informed me that the dish consists of one and a half pounds of lobster in total, and I believed him once it was placed in front of me. In the dish were giant chunks of lobster claw and tail sitting in a lobster broth, not to mention even more chunks of lobster stuffed inside the ravioli, which more closely resembled thin wontons. I loved the delicate pasta with the meat inside as opposed to the commonly found version of pureed lobster with cheese. The lobster itself was infused with ginger and the sauce was creamy but somehow not heavy at all. I was in heaven. I don’t think I’ll order it if I come back, only because there are so many other appealing dishes on the menu that I want to try.

We were completely stuffed at this point, but we wanted to try at least one dessert to see what they were like, so we ordered the Bombolini. The dolce comprised of donuts filled with ricotta and were topped with powdered sugar. There was also marmalade and gelato to dip the donuts in, and they were great fluffy bites to share amongst the table. They reminded me of the zeppoles from Graffiato, and I have to admit, I think these were even better.

With the bill came more sweets, including a tiny macaron and a piece of chocolate with cream inside. I always love when restaurants give an extra treat to send us home.

Bombolini

I should also mention just how wonderful the service was. We were a large party with a baby and stroller and they were definitely accommodating to us. When our entrees came, a few of them seemed to be more room temperature as opposed to hot, and when we said something, the waiter quickly took them away and brought up fresh dishes for us within minutes. While some of us were waiting for our dishes to come back, he even poured some extra prosecco into our glasses to make up for the delay. We certainly appreciated the gesture.

Overall, we were all very full and content when we left the restaurant. Fiola is certainly not somewhere I would go on a regular basis as it was certainly an expensive meal, but everything tasted like it was prepared with great care and simply tasted of a higher caliber. I was definitely eying some of my friends’ dishes, like the homemade lasagna, the short ribs, arctic char, bucatini, gnocchi, and scallops.

I should note that Fiola also has a “Presto!” lunch special where you have your choice of entrée and a beverage for only $15.  There are only half a dozen entrees to choose from, but it’s a great way to try Fiola without breaking the bank. There’s also a happy hour from 4pm to 6pm that features $6 cocktails and glasses of prosecco. So whether you go for lunch, happy hour, or dinner, do not miss out on Fiola. I’m sure glad I didn’t.

Fiola on Urbanspoon

An After Show Dinner at Central

28 Jun

GougèresA few weeks ago, we went with our friends Jamie and Cortney to Central after seeing  comedian Aziz Ansari at the Warner Theater. We attended the early show (which started at 7pm) and planned to have dinner afterwards. Given the proximity to the theater as well as having never been to one of Michel Richard’s restaurants before (at least for us), Central was an ideal destination.

After what was a hysterical performance by Mr. Ansari, we made our way down 11th Street for our 9pm reservation. The restaurant was very busy for a late Friday night, but then we also realized that it’s near several hotels as there were a lot of US Open attendees in the house.

Cortney suggested that we order the famous gougères, or cheese puffs, to share amongst the table. It turned out to be an excellent suggestion as the gougères were warm, moist, and delightfully cheesy. Granted this was my first time indulging in this French pastry, and it proved rather difficult to resist hording them for myself after devouring a couple of them.

After deliberating between the fried chicken with mashed potato and roasted pork loin with flageolet beans, I ultimately opted for the former after asking for the waitresses’ recommendation. In fact, the restaurant’s famous fried chicken is the most frequently ordered item on the menu. Rachel and Jamie  went with the lobster burger, while Cortney ordered the short rib with pappardelle.

Short rib with pappardelle and syrah sauce

The fried chicken turned out to be a great choice. On the plate was a thigh and breast atop a serving of mashed potatoes along with a side of greens. The waiter also served a bowl of mustard sauce which I sparingly used (a little too rich for my taste, but good nonetheless).

While the breading was crunchy and flavorful, it fell off the meat rather easily. It was also a tad on the salty side, especially when it was paired with the mashed potatoes, but the chicken was incredibly moist and juicy. What was most amazing was the lack of grease. I’m not sure if it’s the best fried chicken I’ve had in DC (Birch & Barley’s chicken and waffles comes to mind), but overall I was very pleased with my entrée.

Fried Chicken

Rachel loves all things lobster, and the lobster burger is right up there with the fried chicken in regards to famous dishes at Central. While she winced at the steep price of $30 for a burger, she was confident that this would be no ordinary plate. In other words, the burger was amazing.

She once had a shrimp and lobster burger at The Capital Grille, but Central’s rendition was simply pure lobster meat formed into a patty and then grilled. It was served on a warm bun and topped with a parmesan crisp, which added a nice crunch to the sandwich. The lobster was incredibly juicy as she was very happy with her selection. The fries were good, but not outstanding, and while she could tell that they were going for simplicity on the plate, for $30 it seemed a little barren. I mean, could it hurt to add an accompaniment like pickles or some greens?

Lobster Burger

All and all, all four of us had a superb dinner at Central. While we can finally check off this well-renowned DC restaurant off our bucket list, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be our only visit. I for one would love to try the tartare of filet mignon, and even more importantly, Michel’s chocolate bar. On another note, this post is making me hungry.

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

First Look: Tackle Box Cleveland Park

2 Jun

After years of vacancy at the former McDonald’s space, Tackle Box finally opened its doors yesterday. Between this and Medium Rare, new life has been injected into the Cleveland Park dining scene.

We had the opportunity to check out the restaurant’s newest location (the original is located in Georgetown, right next to sister venue Hook) for a friends and family event. Tackle Box offered a stripped-down version of their regular menu, at no cost, from 4pm to close. Talk about spreading goodwill to the neighborhood!

Raw Bar

If you are not already familiar with Tackle Box, they are a casual seafood eatery that offers selections of grilled and fried fish, oysters, lobster rolls, clam chowder, and much more. The Cleveland Park location, however, is not only two stories, but also features an expanded menu.

Friends and Family Welcome LetterShucking oysters at the raw bar

The space sets the tone of a lobster shack, complete with buoys lining the walls while American flags are adorned in several corners of the restaurant. As their website proclaims – “We like summer vacation at the beach. That’s why we decided to open a lobster shack in the middle of the city for those days we couldn’t make the drive.”

Tackle Box Menu

Once we stepped inside, we felt like we were transported to the shore as the place was packed with communal picnic tables along with servers who looked like they were no older than 20 years old. Not that you’ll be looking for elite service with this type of venue as orders are brought out by number with servers hunting you down with plastic trays with meals prepared in paper plates/platters.

The huge bar that runs down nearly the entire length of the bottom floor looks like a great gathering place after work. The best part? They offer Natty Boh on tap!

Natty Boh on tap!

Rachel and I split a half dozen raw oysters prepared at the raw bar by the front of the house. Accompanied with cocktail sauce and vinegar, these were some surprisingly large oysters. They were freshly shucked, very clean, and nicely presented in a wooden bowl (orders of dozen came out on a steel tray).

Raw Oysters

As for our entrees, we both ordered the Maine Meal which comes with a choice of fish, two sides, and a sauce. I ordered the grilled tilapia with lemon-garlic aioli, grilled broccoli, and mashed potatoes while Rachel got the grilled cod with a grilled portabella mushroom and corn on the cob.

Lobster ArtworkTackle Box InteriorAmerican Flag

Rachel originally wanted to order the whole steamed lobster, but alas, it was 86’ed by the time she stepped up to the counter. The fact that they included this on the complimentary menu spoke volumes on their effort to appease new customers though.

Anyway, I enjoyed the tilapia. It was nothing fancy, but for $7 a la carte (the Maine Meal is normally $14.50), one shouldn’t need to complain. While it was a tad salty, it was a decent piece of fish. When my platter arrived, I received a generous portion of grilled broccoli but my mashed potatoes were nowhere to be found. After informing the waiter, he told me that they had run out. Minutes later, he delivered a fresh batch of French fries! Nice gesture (and really good fries, to boot).

Maine Meal - Grilled cod, portabella mushroom, corn on the cob

Rachel’s cod was excellently grilled and had great flavor to it, especially when dipped into the lemon-garlic aioli sauce. The corn was a little cold by the time she had bit into it, but it still had a nice char to it, if not a tad too buttery. The star of the show had to have been the mushroom, which she thought was huge, until she saw a fellow diner’s even larger mushroom. She said that alone could be an entree, and was a great deal as a side.

We also split a brownie sundae which arrived with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. It was a great way to end the meal as the homemade brownie was soft and delicious while the ice cream, which was nearly melted by the time we got around to eating it, was still very rich in flavor.

Grilled TilapiaFrench Fries

We can see Tackle Box being very successful in Cleveland Park given the location, expansive menu, and huge dining space. It’s been a long time coming for that long-vacant space, and we can’t think of a better restaurant to fill the void than Tackle Box.

Tackle Box is located on 3407 Connecticut Avenue in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of DC.

Tackle Box on Urbanspoon

First Look: Freddy's Lobster and Clams

16 May

Freddy’s Lobster and Clams has been on our list of new restaurants in Bethesda whose openings we have been eagerly anticipating. By chance, we discovered a soft opening this past Saturday and quickly made our way over. Right away, we could tell that this place was going to become a new Bethesda staple.

Freddy’s is the brainchild of Grapeseed chef and owner Jeff Heineman, who has always dreamed of opening a lobster and clam shack. He named the restaurant after his grandfather who he used to spend the summers fishing and catching clams with. The idea sounded like something very different in Bethesda and we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves.

Lobster Roll

Wooden picnic benches graced the outside patio while brightly colored red booths and communal tables welcomed us inside. There weren’t any tables available in the dining room or right at the bar, so we grabbed some seats facing the window in the bar area. All along the walls were signs from New England as well as fishing equipment and memorabilia. There were even a line of t-shirts for sale with the restaurant’s logo in various styles.

While we were waiting to order, we decided to delve into the drinks binder (aka Freddy’s “Booze Book”) which featured an extensive (and reasonably priced – especially for Montgomery County standards) beer list. Brett ordered the Troeg’s Cappuccino Stout while I got the 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon, since I had been meaning to try it and was curious to see how it tasted.

Clam Strips Platter

Drinks in hand, we decided to order two staples for dinner – Brett got the fried clam strips basket (with onion rings) and I got the lobster roll. I’m a huge fan of all things lobster and couldn’t wait to compare this one to other popular rolls in the area. When our food arrived, we could see just how casual this place was. Everything came in red and white paper containers while condiments were already on the tables. We did have to ask our waiter for silverware and waters, but we’ll chalk that up to it being their first day.

I thought my lobster roll, served chilled with mayo, was fresh and delicious. It was mostly chunks of meat as opposed to whole claws or mixed like a salad. The roll was nicely toasted and buttery, but I only wished that there was a little more meat in it as it seemed small compared to competitors such as Red Hook Lobster Pound. Then again, while the two charge the same price for the roll ($15), Freddy’s also threw in a side of fries.

Brett’s platter of clam strips and onion rings resembled something you would typically find at a fish fry, the image Freddy’s is striving for. While the onion rings were huge and crispy, they tended to overshadow the small clam strips. Then again, this was their soft opening so there will be plenty of kinks to be worked out (such as Brett’s aforementioned 3:1 onion rings to clams ratio).

Bar AreaFreddy's Booze BookLive Lobster Tank

We informed the waiter about our qualms and he said that he would pass the word to the chef. Our host was definitely disappointed that we didn’t have as fulfilling of a meal as he had hoped, but we’ll definitely be back to see how the kitchen progresses. It is always difficult to judge a restaurant when it opens, especially during its first few days. The official grand opening for Freddy’s is this Tuesday, but they decided to open early last Saturday for a trial run.

We were definitely glad we got to check the place out. This casual establishment isn’t pretending to be anything other than what’s part of their name, which is lobster and lots of fried food. So while you may leave feeling a little guilty from eating excessive amounts of deep-fried deliciousness, it’s definitely a fun, laid-back venue. And we’ll definitely be back to sit at the bar and explore all the many beers and fun drinks in that binder.

Freddy’s Lobster and Clams is scheduled to open on Tuesday, May 17. They are located on 4867 Cordell Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Freddy's Lobster + Clams on Urbanspoon

The Inn at Little Washington: A Tale of an Anniversary, Redemption, and Closure

8 Mar

Before we get into today’s post, I have to recount a story that will help explain why this post is titled as such.

The first time we ever dined at the Inn at Little Washington was exactly one year ago. Rachel and I had just got married and we went on a “mini-moon” in Washington, Virginia immediately following the wedding.

Staying at a nearby bed and breakfast, the main attraction was our reservation at the world-renowned Inn for dinner. As someone who not only loves food, but is also considered a “bottomless pit” to some, what happened next was, dare I say, tragic.

That morning, I had contracted some sort of stomach illness. Any desire of hunger had disappeared, replaced instead with sharp pains in the abdominal region. It wasn’t really the greatest trade off.

Since we were mere walking distance from the restaurant, and because there would be a cancellation fee for reservations changed within 24 hours, I felt that I could whether the storm and try to enjoy dinner to its fullest.

Amuse bouche of pork belly, "gin and tonic" foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball

While I recall the deliciousness of the herb-crusted baby lamb Carpaccio, once I had reached the second course, it was all downhill from there. The pain was intensifying and the sight of food was increasing my nausea. The waitress, who felt terrible about the predicament, kept graciously supplying me with glasses of ginger ale. I barely touched my entrée and had no recollection what it tasted like because I was so ill.

As someone who rarely gets sick, this was my worst nightmare realized.

Ever since that fateful evening, I have vowed to return to the Inn at Little Washington not only healthy, but with a hearty appetite. It’s eaten away at me (no pun intended) for a year now, and I was determined to come back and enjoy the best dinner we was supposed to have that night.

I wanted closure, dammit.

White bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit

With our one year anniversary coming up, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to return to the countryside of Virginia and dine at one of the area’s (if not the country’s) very best restaurants.

The service at the Inn is unlike anything else we have ever encountered. When we arrived in the pouring rain, attendants came with umbrellas to make sure we wouldn’t get wet from the nasty weather.

Once we were inside, one of the hosts noticed my camera and asked if he could take a picture of us in front of the warm fireplace, to which of course we obliged. Shortly after, we were escorted to our seats in the gorgeous dining room where another host asked us if he wanted to take our picture at the table.  To say that you are treated like royalty would be an understatement when dining at the Inn.

Chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette

We started the evening off with a bottle of chardonnay from the Winery at LaGrange, which is a winery we had debated visiting this past weekend.

Shortly after our wine was served, our first amuse bouche arrived. Delicately placed in four individuals spoons were miniature bites of pork belly, “gin and tonic” foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball. We obviously couldn’t share them so we each ate two. For such small portions we were enamored with how each tasted.

Our next amuse bouche was a small serving of white bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit. The two items flawlessly complemented one another. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded a whole bowl of the soup just for myself based on how rich and delicious it was.

Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream

For the first course, I ordered the chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette. The lobster knuckles were just as exceptionally good as the beautiful presentation. While it slightly reminded me of the lobster meat found at Red Hook Lobster Pound (yeah yeah, I’m well aware I’m referencing a food truck, but come on, their lobster meat is undeniably good), head chef Patrick O’Connell finds a way to take something and make it that much better. The orbs of avocado were also a really nice touch and melted in my mouth with each bite.

Rachel decided to get the Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream, and we both agreed that it was one of the prettiest dishes we had ever seen. It seriously looked like a painting, and the combination of the miniature ice cream balls, Carpaccio, homemade croutons, and spear of romaine lettuce with fresh cheese made each bite a perfect play on a classic dish.

Seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive

The second course featured a seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive. While the scallop was impeccably cooked, I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed by the size of it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very enjoyable piece of shellfish, but for the price we were paying, it’s a shame that it could not have been at least a somewhat larger portion. The way it was prepared, however, made me savor each bite more than I would have with a larger plate.

Always a fan of anything lobster, Rachel got the lobster fricassee for her second course as I had lobster for my first course, not to mention that she had the lobster entree during our visit last year. This is one of the Inn’s characteristic dishes, and once you put all the components on your fork, you get to relish a perfect bite of lobster meat, gnocchi, walnuts, and stem mushrooms in a light butter sauce. It’s a dish that could be very filling if you had a full plate of it, but the portion size was perfect as a prelude to what was to come.

Fricassee of Lobster with Potato Gnocchi, Green Grapes and Curried Walnuts

As for the entrée, it was only a matter of time that I would face the dish that simply teased me when we last met a year ago. Having no memory of what it tasted like, I wanted redemption on one of Patrick O’Connell’s classics: the pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon.

Topped with seared duck foie gras on charred onions with a burgundy butter sauce, this dish met its lofty expectations immediately after the first bite. Not only is the quality of the fish top-notch, but then when you add in the fact that you’re also having the most savory piece of foie gras your taste buds have ever encountered, you are in for quite the treat.

Pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon

What is amazing is that you really do lose sight that it’s not beef you’re enjoying, but rather tuna. Between the outstanding cut of fish, foie gras, and burgundy sauce, it’s a recipe that has stood the test of time. When I finally put the fork down after the very last bite, I ultimately reached the feeling I had been yearning for so long: closure.

After some debating and suggestions from our ever-patient waiter, Rachel decided to steer clear from her usual choice of fish and get another Inn classic – the beef two ways. The two versions of meat were striking in contrast on the white plate. On one side, you had a braised short rib that was slow-cooked for hours and fell apart with the touch of your fork, and was accompanied by a delicious barbecue sauce that was sweet but not overpowering, along with mini walnuts and vegetables.

Beef Two Ways

On the other was quite possibly the most delicate piece of meat we have ever tried. It was a miniature filet mignon, cooked rare and wrapped in Swiss chard. When I tried a bite, I realized this is why people go to the Inn: to experience somewhat familiar foods in completely new ways. To top it all off, a small portion of potatoes au gratin provided even more indulgence to an already decadent dish. It very well might have been the best cut of beef I have ever tasted.

Nearly stuffed, we still had to order dessert! After glancing over the menu, I opted for the Seven Deadly Sins: a sampling of seven of the Inn’s richest desserts. When it arrived, I was not only floored by the presentation but also by the wide range of pastries found on the plate. If memory serves me correctly, it included an apple crisp, molten chocolate lava cake, panna cotta, a scoop of butter pecan ice cream, black forest mouse, mint chocolate cake, and a vanilla chocolate ice cream roll in the center. Unfortunately, I could only tackle six of the seven desserts (rest assured, the apple tart is in the refrigerator). Nonetheless, I was very satisfied with my choice.

You have to tip your hat to the staff at the restaurant. They go above and beyond in insuring that your experience at the Inn at Little Washington is one you will never forget. For instance, our waiter noticed that Rachel had only a few bites of her butter pecan ice cream sandwich with hot caramel sauce. He asked if she liked it, and as soon as she hesitated, he promptly asked what she would like instead. Moments later, a fresh plate of bread pudding appeared on the table. He could not have been more gracious.

After we settled the bill and received our personalized menu to take home along with a miniature version of the Inn filled with treats, we learned via The Bethesda Foodie that you could ask for a tour of the kitchen. We grabbed our waiter’s attention, and before we could even finish our question, he already knew what we were going to inquire about. One of the hosts soon took us to the back, and before we knew it, we were inside the Inn’s kitchen.

Soutern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich

As we were whisked inside the heart of the operation, Chef O’Connell himself greeted us, shook our hands and wished us a happy anniversary! We thanked him for providing such a great meal while our host showed us about the different stations. Before we knew it, we were outside the kitchen, starstruck. It didn’t even occur to us to ask for a picture with the Chef, but he did look extremely busy and we were grateful he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to meet us. We’re sure we weren’t the only people who asked for a tour that night.

Victorian lampsFaira the CowMiniature Inn stuffed with treats

Finally, it was time to go. Happily full and content, a hostess already had our coats ready at the door and a valet was warming our car for us before we ventured out into the sleet and rain.

If you’re ever thinking about going out to dinner for a very special occasion, we cannot recommend the Inn at Little Washington enough. Between the food, ambiance, and customer service, it’s not a meal, but rather an experience – one that you will treasure for a long time.

The Inn at Little Washington on Urbanspoon

A (Post) Valentine's Day Dinner at Kinkead's

18 Feb

Having traveled the last few weekends in a row, and simply turned off to the idea of going out to dinner for Valentine’s Day along with the rest of the world, Rachel and I postponed our plans until two days after the Hallmark holiday.

It could not have worked out better.

With Groupon in hand (by far one of the better deals the website has offered), we made our way to Foggy Bottom, but not before partaking in some Happy Hour first. Kinkead’s kicked off their bar specials earlier this week, so the timing was perfect.

Lobster medallions, lobster "knuckle" sandwich, onion rings

And how could one not resist half-priced oysters? Certainly not us. With Bass drafts for $5, a glass of their wine of the day for $8, and not to mention a very friendly bartender, it was a shame we only had a short time to enjoy it since happy hour only lasts till 6:30.

After we paid our tab, our reservation was ready and we made our way to the upstairs dining room. We started our meal off with their fresh bread basket which included some very warm and delicious pieces of cornbread, soda bread, and whole wheat.

Shrimp Bisque

For the first course, Rachel ordered the lobster medallions, served in an asparagus stew with a lobster “knuckle” sandwich and crispy Vidalia onion rings. While the presentation was gorgeous, it was the medallions that really stole the show. Flavorful and tender, it was hard to ration the lobster given how large the medallions were.

In fact, it might have been the dish’s only downfall as the medallions were too difficult to cut away at as we eventually wound up eating them too quickly. It might have been better if the soup was served in a shallow bowl so that one could cut the lobster instead of it being served in a deeper, smaller bowl.

The “knuckle” sandwich was a nice touch and felt like a seafood takeoff on grilled cheese and tomato soup. Rachel also had the great idea of throwing the onion rings into the broth which gave it a subtle, crunchy texture.

Sesame Seared Rare Tuna

I went with the shrimp bisque, but had we known beforehand that Rachel’s appetizer was also primarily a soup (we overlooked that when reading the menu), I probably would have ordered something else. That’s not to say the bisque wasn’t good. In fact, it was fantastic!  Hearty but not too rich, it was the perfect dish for a winter’s eve. We just did not realize the texture of both soups would be so similar.

For our main course, I ordered the sesame seared rare tuna, served with seaweed salad, soba noodles, wasabi, and a soy dipping sauce. It turned out to be a generous portion as the tuna was perfectly cooked while the seaweed salad and noodles were fitting sides for the Asian-inspired entree. The sauce was very salty, of course, but at least it was served on the side so I could add just the right amount onto the fish.

Skate with lemon sabayon, grapefruit segments, and jumbo grilled asparagus

Rachel decided to try the skate since it’s a fish she has never had before, and the crispy wing balanced out well with a lemon sabayon, grapefruit segments, and jumbo grilled asparagus. It was a beautiful presentation and she enjoyed the dish, but I could tell that she was eyeing mine more than her own. I think the sauce was a little too overpowering, and while she debated ordering the skate versus the whole black bass, the latter may have been the better choice. At least now she knows what skate tastes like.

Overall, we had a great meal, and combined with the $50 discount from Groupon, it was an even better value. Kinkead’s might be part of the “old guard” in DC, but as evidenced on Wednesday night, it has held up rather well throughout the years.

Kinkeads is located on 2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Kinkead's on Urbanspoon

Our New Love Affair with Red Hook Lobster Pound

1 Nov

It has been hard to ignore the recent surge in food trucks in the DC area over the last few months. We’re not sure if the popularity has grown from the Food Network show, or just the fact that DC is usually a few months (or even years) behind other major cities when it comes to the latest food trends, but it appears that food trucks are hugely popular, and hopefully they are here to stay.

The one food truck that has stuck out in our minds as a “must visit” is the Red Hook Lobster Pound. Word spread quickly when the truck debuted back in August that this was a big deal as they already had an established truck in New York City and were known for using fresh lobster meat shipped daily from Maine.

Lining up for Red Hook Lobster PoundWe had been dying to try this truck, except the only problem is that neither of us works downtown, and it doesn’t seem like they are going to be traveling to Bethesda or Hyattsville anytime soon. We didn’t even bother trying to score some lobster rolls at the Curbside Kickoff as the lines were ridiculously long and barely moving. Luckily, we both have the same flex day schedule, so after learning on Twitter that their Lobby One truck would be set up by Farragut North, we made it our mission to finally have some lobster rolls for lunch.

The plan was for Brett to get there a little early in order to start waiting in line while I finished my final long run before my upcoming half marathon. Their Twitter announcement said that they would get there at 11:30am, and by the time I reached Brett just ten minutes later, there was already a line almost down the street. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long, but it was a sight to be seen nonetheless.
Maine Root soda fountainThere was a camera crew set up from ABC News interviewing the employees, while next to Red Hook was Curbside Cupcakes, which barely had a line. This was pretty smart for them since many people, including us, decided to purchase a cupcake while waiting in line.

When we finally got to the front to place our order, we decided to get one Traditional roll meal, as well as one Connecticut roll. The Traditional roll consisted of cold chucks of lobster meat mixed with light mayo and scallions in a buttery roll. The meal also came with Cape Cod chips and a choice of Maine Root soda.

Traditional Lobster RollBrett decided to try the Connecticut roll, which consisted of lobster steamed with butter in a roll. We also got a root beer to go with it from the truck’s built-in soda fountain, and took our sandwiches and carrot cake cupcake to the nearby Borders to eat. The one drawback in regards to not working nearby was that it was tough to find a place to eat given the chilly fall weather.

Finally, the time had come to try these infamous rolls. Just looking at mine, you could see huge, full lobster claws stuffed inside as the meat was pouring out of the roll. There was so much lobster that it was hard to keep it from spilling out. Every bite was to die for as the mixture of the lobster with the celery and mayo was perfect while not being too heavy. I was in heaven and did not want the sandwich to end.

Connecticut Lobster RollMeanwhile, Brett devoured his Connecticut roll and was impressed with not only the quantity of lobster meat stuffed inside, but how succulent it was. It turned out to be a double-edged sword as the plethora of butter found inside the roll instantly made it soggy and hard to eat with his hands without it falling apart. He wound up having to use a fork in the end but it didn’t matter as he still came away impressed despite the bread-related difficulties.

Curbside Cupcakes (Carrot cake)I’ll flat-out say that I was a little skeptical that the Lobster Pound was worth both the time and money. Considering that this was a food truck, our lunch was certainly no bargain. My meal, which consisted of a roll with chips and a drink, came out to $18, while Brett’s sandwich alone cost $15. On top of that $33 bill, we still needed to find a place to eat.

Overall, we were glad that we were finally able to try these and have to say, if we worked nearby to where they routinely set up, this blog would suffer from a lack of non-lobster truck-related content.

Red Hook Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon

Galileo III: Third Time Is a Charm for Roberto Donna

19 Oct

Roberto Donna’s long-awaiting Galileo III recently opened in Downtown DC, and DMV Dining could not hold out another day without trying the Italian chef’s newest venture. Let’s just say we’re glad he’s back.

We were able to grab a last minute reservation for last Friday, and had less than 24 hours to process the notion we’d actually be spending our evening dining on fine Italian cuisine from one of the area’s most beloved chefs rather than catch up on hours of DVR from this past week (ah, married life!).

Located in the space previously occupied by Butterfield 9, Galileo III is situated in a prime location in Downtown Washington. Valet parking was our only option as it was still rush hour, but for $8, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Bread PlateThe hostess was very warm and friendly and immediately sat us near the front of the house. The space is very modern yet homey at the same time, but that could be because Roberto Donna’s wife Nancy, who was making the rounds at every table, makes you feel like you’re a part of the family. We struck up a nice conversation with her as she wholeheartedly approved of Rachel making the wine selection instead of myself.  Little touches like that go a long way.

Our waiter asked us if we wanted sparkling or still water, and when we had asked for still, he immediately brought over a bottle of water and poured it into both of our glasses before we had enough time to realize that we had really asked for simple tap water. We noticed other tables around us also had tap water, but because the waiter never even mentioned tap as an option, we had simply assumed that “still water” meant “tap” in this particular case.

The waiter not initially offering tap water as an option was obviously an error on the restaurant’s part, but we also did not act soon enough to deny the water before it was too late. Both of us were not vocal enough about the gaffe, but seeing how the restaurant was only in its second week of operation, we still probably should have said something.

Wine: Considering the price for the meal itself, it was refreshing to see a good number of wine bottles priced at $30. We chose a Bordeaux that had a very distinct taste to it. We were a little unsure of our choice and I noticed that other tables had a sommelier spend more time in helping other diners choose, but they were likely buying a bottle that was probably at least twice the price that ours was.

Carne Crude All' AbeseFirst course: I decided to order the Carne Crude All’ Abese, which was layered hand-chopped veal with slivers of rich Parmesan cheese, slices of mushroom, artichoke chips, and a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. As the beginning of my meal, it certainly raised the bar as to what was yet to come. I had no idea veal could taste this good, yet Chef Donna pulled it off with ease. It was an excellent first course as the succulent veal blended well with the dressing, not to mention its gorgeous presentation.

Tonno Delle IsoleRachel went with the Tonno Delle Isole which was tuna prepared three ways, but only two of the methods were easily distinguishable. One was more of a thinly sliced piece of smoked tuna, and the other was a tartar below that, with little balls of couscous holding it together. There were small pieces of lettuce on top and a hint of orange dressing. The tuna tasted delicious, but it didn’t stand out as a must-try dish.

Raviolini del PlinSecond course: I went with the Raviolini del Plin – small pinched ravioli stuffed with three meats and served with veal au jus. Another fine dish as the homemade pasta was simply delicious. For one reason or another, it just felt that there was a lot of dedication from the kitchen in concocting the pasta considering how authentic it tasted.

Rachel opted for the Porcini Mushroom Two Ways, which meant stuffed legs with fonduta cheese, breaded & sautéed, and roasted head with garlic & parsley, with black truffle sauce. This was a dish that looked much different than she thought it would when first reading it on the menu. Porcini Mushroom Two WaysIt seemed like the mushrooms would be displayed as the stem and legs as the star of the dish, but when Rachel received it, the main component was a fried tart stuffed with creamy cheese and mushroom stems. The second part was a thin piece that lay on the tart, accompanied by a truffle sauce. The flavors all mixed well together, but it was a little heavy and after eyeing someone else’s scallop dish, she wondered if that would have been a better choice.

Pappardelle Al CinghialeThird course: It is pretty amazing when the following pasta dish is able to top the previous one, but that turned out to be the case as the Pappardelle Al Cinghiale was simply divine. This was my favorite course of the meal as the fettuccine was perfectly cooked while the wild boar sauce was the best ragu I had ever tasted. Seriously, I wish I had a jar of this stuff to take home with me.

Mezzelune di Melanzane E GranchiRachel’s next pasta course was the Mezzelune di Melanzane E Granchi, and the flavor combination was very unique. The half moon shape pasta was filled with spinach and crab meat, with a light tomato sauce, finished with a hint of orange juice. There was a stark contrast between the tomato and the orange flavor, which was enjoyable but also overpowered the filling of the pasta. It was hard to taste the crabmeat, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a winning dish. It was certainly her favorite of the pasta dishes that night.

Tagliata (beef rib eye)Fourth course: I ordered the Tagliata (beef rib eye) and it was perhaps the only misstep of the evening. I had asked for it to be prepared medium-rare, but when it arrived, the majority of it was more on the medium-well side. It was also a bit dry, but the sun-dried tomatoes it was topped with aided the overall flavor of the entree. I’m not one to send a dish back unless it is extremely necessary, so there was really no reason to ask the waiter to have it prepared again as it was still good overall. Out of all the courses thus far, this was the weakest in terms of execution.

Rachel was in a predicament as she was originally set on trying the Branzino, especially since it received rave reviews from those who have tried Galileo III during the first few weeks. Always a big fan of lobster, she had planned on getting the Taglierini Neri All’Aragosta with lobster tail as one of the earlier courses, and then the Branzino for the entree. However, there was a significant upcharge for the whole fish, and when spending so much for the meal to begin with, it just didn’t seem necessary when all the other entrees were most likely just as good.

Arogosta E CalamariIn the end, she went for the Arogosta E Calamari (lobster tail), which came with calamari stuffed with cabbage and pancetta, as well as cubed red beets and creamy polenta. The dish itself was delicious and very unique. The calamari side with the cabbage tasted very similar to a stuffed cabbage dish, and was perfect comfort food. She said she would eat more of that even just as a main dish! She wasn’t sure how well it went with the rest of the entree, but the lobster itself was perfectly cooked, and very delicate.

The only thing she noticed was, at the table next to us, that the person who ordered the lobster appetizer had a significantly larger portion of lobster than what she had for the main entree. It was hard to complain with so many courses, and considering the fact that if the portion was any larger she would have been completely stuffed. It just made her think that if we ever came back, that she would definitely try the lobster pasta starter dish.Torta di Cioccolato

Dessert: For dessert, the waiter recommended the Torta di Cioccolato. It proved to be a great suggestion as the tort was very rich while the small portions of basil and coconut gelato added some variety to the dish. Rachel went with the Crostata di Mele, which was essentially a small apple tart with caramel ice cream. It was a simple dessert and the apple combined with the caramel ice cream was a perfect way to end a delicious meal.

Crostata di MeleOverall, Galileo III turned out to be a great experience. It’s not the best meal we’ve ever had, but I can easily see it becoming one of the city’s best Italian restaurants once they work out the kinks both in the kitchen and on the floor.  The service was otherwise top-notch.

Let’s just hope that the waiter will actually offer us a third water option on our next visit…

Galileo III on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Mussel Bar

29 Sep

We’ve dined at Robert Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar several times since we first ate there on opening night, and honestly, it’s instantly become our favorite restaurant in the entire Bethesda area.

Between the excellent selection of craft brews (Delirium Tremens on tap!) and high-quality yet reasonably-priced food, Mussel Bar has filled a niche that Bethesda residents such as us have craved for.

Sunday was no exception as we decided to venture over there and see how brunch would fare over our earlier dinner experiences.

I went with the Huevos Rancheros and they were, by far, the best I’ve ever had in regards to that particular egg dish.  Served atop a grilled tortilla, the poached eggs were accompanied with some very delicious spicy pork, spinach, peppers, and a creamy hollandaise sauce.

Huevos Rancheros

The combination of flavors was excellent as the pork added just enough kick to the eggs without having to ask for some hot sauce. Letting the yolk drizzle throughout the dish made it enjoyable to savor each bite. What’s left to say? It’ll be my go-to from hereon out for brunch at Mussel Bar.

Rachel was debating between a traditional breakfast dish, like an omelet with goat cheese, chicken, and spinach, and a mainstay on the menu, the highly-praised lobster roll. She had already heard good things about it from friends, and after the craze of the Red Hook Lobster Company food truck, lobster had been on her mind. So, lobster roll it was.

And what a great decision it turned out to be.

The giant size roll was overstuffed with huge chunks of lobster meat, bonded together with only a touch of mayo and spices. The dish was accompanied with the now infamous Mussel Bar sweet potatoes fries, which we have to say, are like crack. They are crispy, with a hint of vanilla and a tad of salt, and are very, very addictive. The plate also came with a side lettuce, of which we originally thought was garnish, but turned out to be a small salad as well.

Lobster Roll

While we’ve generally never had a problem with the service at Mussel Bar, I had to track down the hostess to ask for some sugar for my coffee since the waiter forgot to bring it out when our drinks arrived. I also had to ask another waitress for a refill since ours couldn’t be found for a brief period of time.

Rachel ordered a Diet Coke with her meal, and as soon as we saw the waiter bring it in a small glass bottle with a glass of ice, we knew what that meant – no free refills. That is always a pet peeve, as soda costs are generally low and if a restaurant is going to bring individual bottles and charge for each one, it should be stated upfront. But other than those minor issues, the service was generally very good.

Now the biggest question we will have to face when going back to Mussel Bar is… lobster roll, or mussels? Decisions, decisions.

Mussel Bar on Urbanspoon